“My Dearest Dietrich” Encourages Readers to Learn More about Bonhoeffer…

Friends!  Don’t you love it when you finish a book and want to learn more about its subject?  Such will be the scenario when you dive into My Dearest Dietrich:  A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love by Amanda Barratt.

I recently heard an interview with our author, Amanda Barratt, and Eric Metaxas on the Metaxas Talk Show. (www.metaxastalk.com) One could argue over which of the two knows more about Bonhoeffer given Amanda’s research for her novel and Eric’s tome

Not having learned much about Bonhoeffer’s fiancee, Maria von Wedemeyer-Weller, I was delighted to learn of Amanda’s new novel, My Dearest Dietrich, especially since Branches Book Club will open their season with it come Monday, September 23rd. (Mark the date on your calendar!  6:30-8:00 p.m., at Middletown United Methodist Church! Load up your car with friends and come!)

Hearing the interview further fueled my desire to read Amanda’s book, promptly causing me to order it. The Living Word Bookstore currently has lots of copies for you book clubbers! Call to reserve your copy:  (502) 253-8220.

The most astonishing discovery of this talented author is her age.  Wait for it: Amanda is only TWENTY-THREE YEARS OLD.  Huh?  You’ll flip even more once you dive into her book, her words wrapping around you like a warm blanket.

Gaining a peak into Dietrich and Maria’s relationship is delightful.  We readers must remind ourselves this book is a novel, yet we feel as if we are right there with them, almost afraid to disturb their privacy.

For me, seeing this side of Bonhoeffer, my eyes were opened to a much, much different man.  While I’ve always respected him as a ten-talent theologian who continues to inspire thousands, I’d never considered the softer side of him.  Additionally, I knew of his close ties with his family, and still didn’t ponder exactly how close they were.

Finishing Amanda’s novel only made me want to learn more.  Bless her for listing suggestions for further reading at the end of her book, one book of which, I’ll be reporting on soon!  (Letters and Papers from Prison by Bonhoeffer, compiled by Dietrich’s dear friend, Eberhard Bethge.)

The other kicker for me, was, since I knew the outcome of Bonhoeffer’s life (Spoiler alert:  he was hung in prison the morning of April 9th, in 1945.), somehow I still hoped we’d see him freed from prison, and see them married off.  Nevertheless, My Dearest Dietrich is the quintessential page-turner.

The novel opens in June of 1942.  We get to see how Dietrich and Maria meet, his involvement with the Abwehr, his writing habits, along with snippets of his resume which intimidate Maria. For example:  She calls him “a thoroughgoing academic, earning his doctorate in theology at the age of twenty-one, going on to pastor in Spain, complete a postdoctoral degree, study in America, lecture at Berlin’s University, and actively participate in maintaining ecumenical communication between foreign churches. He also became one of the foremost leaders in the Confessing Church—a group that fought desperately both to counter the false teachings of the Reich Church and to keep alive a church founded on Scripture’s doctrine rather than Herr Hitler’s.”

Dietrich, in his 30’s, and Maria, a mere teenager, become engaged much to the chagrin of her mother, insisting they wait a full year to date including no letters and no visits. Thankfully this changes once Dietrich becomes imprisoned. Soon letters become exchanged and Maria gets to visit him once a month. Reading about their visits is simply breathtaking.  They’re also frustrating given the officers who feel compelled to be present.

We see through Maria’s eyes both a serious side of Dietrich as she recounts hearing him preach, counting sixty-eight times his use of the word, “God.” As well as a lighter side: in the same afternoon she witnesses him “trounce everyone at table tennis.”

Another element I particularly enjoyed was the musical influence over his entire family, Dietrich included.  Often they play classical pieces together, everyone playing a different musical instrument, Dietrich at the piano. This was their way of life.

Their family meals seem perpetually challenging intellectually.   I find this fascinating as time around the table is not a part of our way of life today, sadly. Although we can certainly aspire to such! (In a perfect world, a round table is my favorite with our family, you?)

During the frightening times of the Hitler regime, never knowing when one could potentially be arrested, the Bonhoeffer’s made the most of their time together.  Maria said Dietrich’s words were always “full of purpose, clarity, and even rarer, hope.”

Dietrich shared a revelation about his faith with Maria.  He told her what he enjoyed most about his visit to America was in the Abyssinian Baptist Church.  He said,

As time marches on, the intensity of the war builds, the conspirators remain on edge, yet standing firm. Their ultimate goal was to assassinate Hitler.  Black-out curtains are hung in all the windows. Cars begin stalking them and we readers find ourselves on edge as well.  Amanda’s skill at foreshadowing is key.

One of many favorite quotes comes from November 11, 1942, in Berlin:  “The time might come when Dietrich would be among those reduced to starvation rations, and as his gaze traveled the table, the faces of his parents, he committed it all to memory, storing up each scene like an art collector locking away his beloved masterpieces.”

While many of their friends become arrested, others die either from war or suicide.  Dietrich learns of many soldiers suffering, “the young men who had once been his students, the lifeblood of his illegal seminary…”

Dietrich declares in a meeting of the conspiracy, “Above all, these concerns must be taken to God. His is the only authority to which we can rightfully answer. Seek Him, He will not fail you.”

Many fellow prisoners and guards, after becoming acquainted with Dietrich comment on his remarkable peace and tranquility he exhibited.  His steadfast faith and trust in the Lord is wonderfully inspirational. You find yourself reading with your jaw open in astonishment over his ability to stay calm, forever seeking the Lord in prayer, day, after day, after day.

Don’t miss all the beautiful details of Dietrich and Maria’s relationship as well as their inspirational faith.  More than once I asked myself, “Could I, and would I react like this?  Would my faith hold true?”

Now you know what I’m going to say, “Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore and grab My Dearest Dietrich.”  You’ll be so glad you did.

And don’t forget to save the date: September 23rd to join us at Branches Book Club, Middletown United Methodist Church from 6:30-8:00 p.m. when we discuss this excellent novel.  You won’t want to miss this! We’re hoping to hear from Amanda via a video message (I’ll confirm this closer to our meeting) and of course, we’ll have apple strudel among other German delights!

11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243 http://www.middletownumc.org

‘Til next time!

 

 

 

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A Man Walks into a Bar…(When Today May Be Your Last)

Friends! Lest you think I’m vying for late night TV, a man really did walk into a bar.  John and I were right there, and this is no joke…

Being empty nesters for a handful of years, we’ve developed hilarious habits. My favorite habit happens to be eating out. (Emphasis on O-U-T.)

Recently, while dining at one of our favorite haunts, Porcini’s (www.porcinilouisville.com), something happened which opened our eyes… porcini-store-front2 John and I were talking to one of our favorite waitresses who informed us EMS would be arriving soon. Seems a guy literally walked in off the street and hollered, “I think I’m having a heart attack.”

Sure enough, we began to hear sirens. A fire truck and an ambulance pulled up out front. Before we knew it, the EMT’s were whisking a stretcher, occupied by this guy, thru’ the door, and up into the ambulance. Off they went. Ambulance car back at the white background While I don’t know the outcome, it sure made me think: What if that evening, that man didn’t live to see the next morning?

Which of course leads me to pose three huge questions to us all:

What if today was your last day on this Earth?

– Are you sure you’re Heaven bound?

– While you’re at it, are you aging gracefully?”

Not too long ago, several of us were finishing up the Bible study on Acts of God—Why Does God Allow So Much Pain? by Bob Russell. As God would orchestrate, we were on Chapter Eleven which discusses the trials of aging.

Bob shares the painful process of watching his Mother succumb to Alzheimer’s. Several of my friends are dealing with this very scenario as I type. It’s not easy by any stretch. My own Mother died of Advanced Dementia.

Bob tells about two final encouraging visits he had with his Mother, long after she quit recognizing him. They began as seemingly futile. One visit, when Bob was about to leave, he decided to read the 23rd Psalm to his Mother. Like a switch was turned on, she began to quote it with him, word for word. psalm23 On another visit, Bob and his brother, John, began singing a hymn, and their Mother suddenly sang along with them. Bob said, “God is at work in ways we never see. I thanked Him and praised Him on my way home.”

Here’s the bottom line: “It’s only human to fear the unknown, of course, but at some point, genuine trust in God should make the difference.” May we truly trust, daily.

Bob reminds us, “Revelation 2:10 is a promise from the mouth of Christ: ‘Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.’”

Bob talks about people aging gracefully, and of some who do not. You’ll be astonished to learn about Florence Nightingale.

You’ll get tickled when Bob discusses those who get so consumed with all their aches and pains they take themselves out of the battle before it’s fought. Does anyone or several someones come to mind? Clouds and female hand waving with a white flag to surrender Or have you heard, “Oh, we must make the trip, for this could be Aunt Edna’s (or fill-in-the-blank of your longest living relative) last Thanksgiving!” Bob says if we are to age gracefully, we must “live life to the fullest, and let God decide when the curtains are going to close.”

Finally, one more point to consider: “The truth of heaven should also impact our feelings of urgency in sharing the Gospel with those we love.” Old Bible With Sword Do you have a friend or family member who needs to hear the Good News? I keep thinking of that man We saw who came into the restaurant, right off the street. Did he know the Lord? I pray so.

Bob concludes, “Every act of God carries more meaning than our minds can grasp. No matter how we mourn, no matter how sad some days can be, we must believe that God is loving and good, and that someday, in His presence, we’ll see the whole picture and understand that the darkest moments of this life were necessary ingredients to the brightest miracles he was planning.”

May our eyes be opened to those God places in our path.

Press on, friends.

Be ready.

‘Til next time!

(FYI: The teaching DVD’s to Acts of God are incredible. They include clips from the movie of the same name, memorable teaching by Bob, and helpful nuggets from God’s Word. I highly recommend it for your small group/Bible study. You can find these at The Living Word Bookstore, www.livingword.org or, you can order them from www.actsofgodthemovie.com or www.cityonahillstudio.com )

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Don’t Miss This BRAND NEW Must-Read by Bob Merritt: “Done With That: Escape the Struggle of Your Old Life”

Friends!  Come August 1st, a hot-off-the-press book will be available to you.  Guys and gals will want to bolt to your nearest bookstore to grab this compelling book! Trust me on this…

I’ve been blessed to get a sneak peak.  Bob is a gifted writer as well as a quintessential story teller.  He’s also brutally honest (many times you’ll say to yourself, “Wow, I think that, but I’m not about to publicly confess that.”).

Let’s start with some of Bob’s endorsers—they’re most impressive. One of my favorites is by author Mark Batterson.  Mark says, “…Bob shows that less means more.  Less regret means more joy. Less loneliness means more belonging. Less angst means more contentment. Bob’s hard-fought battle will help you win yours.”

Our own Senior Pastor, Kyle Idleman, says, “Freedom in Christ is one of the most powerful gifts of the gospel. But knowledge of that freedom and walking in that freedom are two different things. This book moves us from knowledge to action, with practical application for every person who is truly ready to move.”

The book’s divided into three parts:  Getting Honest, Aha Moments, and The New Life is Less and More, four chapters per part, with Bob taking us by the hand throughout the entire book.  The Intro’ causes you to say, “I’m so glad I found this book.” Once you get into the chapters you’ll say, “Wow, I need this book.”

Thirty-six excellent discussion questions, three per each of the twelve chapters, are included for your small group or Bible study buddies. Chapter 10 – Fewer Possessions, More People, has my favorite of all the thought-provoking questions in it:  “Create a list of the people who really matter to you. Who are the ten who will cry at your funeral, and is there anything you need to change to make sure those ten are getting your best?”

And look at this:

In Chapter One we learn from Dallas Willard re: “the challenge of living the Christian life.  He said the word disciple appears 269 times in the New Testament but the word Christian appears only 3 times.”  Bob continues, “The cost of discipleship is real, but the price of non-discipleship is a life that NEVER improves and stays stuck in relational breakdown and personal strife.”

Bob shows us that spiritual growth takes time and regardless of where we are, (see below…)

Numerous Scripture verses and Biblical character’s actions build Bob’s points in each chapter.  I found myself logging many of them into my journal, each one pertinent to whatever day I was reading.

Chapter Four gives us a point thanks to a golf analogy that’s also killer funny at Bob’s expense.  Bob manages to tear his rotator cuff (ouch) and suffers thru’ intense physical therapy. We readers feel his pain.

This chapter is about leaving our old life for a new one. It’s easy to get comfy in our old life. And in Bob’s case, things weren’t going to change for him unless he turned himself in for some help.  By that time, Bob reveals he’d seen “two doctors, four physical trainers, and one therapist.”  He says, “I’d read a dozen articles, watched four videos, and received fifteen pages of exercises. I was determined to overcome my problem and resume playing the game of golf as God intended.”

The pain is what was teaching Bob he had to change. Here’s where we’re given three steps toward change:

Humility,

Honesty, and

Hard work… (Don’t miss this chapter!)

Bob’s revelation is:  “Just as there is physical therapy for shoulder pain, there is spiritual therapy to develop our faith:  both require a commitment to doing the work…It took humility, facts, and action to abandon the old life of failure and pain and move squarely into the new life of golf and happiness.”

Totally a guys’ guy, Bob relays some hysterical hunting stories. I’ve read these out loud to my husband while both of us howl ‘til we cry.  My husband is so happy my copy of the book has come in the mail now so he can dive in. (I was reading digitally.)

(Be sure to catch some of Bob’s sermons from his church’s website.)

Finally, I’ll share a few tidbits from my favorite chapter, Chapter 8 – Turning Points. (Never in a million years would I’ve thought an illustration using skinny jeans would grab me.)

Hang with me…the “Spiritual Turning Point” is hugely an “aha!”  We’re gifted with four practices to help us “open up the channels for God’s Spirit to speak:”

1 – Read God’s Word

2 – Read inspiring books (My personal favorite!)

3 – Reduce the noise in your life (Warning:  This is a tough one.)

4 – Confess your sins (Not for the faint of heart.)

Sound impossible?  Bob clarifies, “…these major turning points don’t happen every day. But a major spiritual turning point can happen in an instant, in an hour or two, or over several days. And when it occurs, it’ll feel as though you’ve been saved or freed from something, as though you’ve had a breakthrough, and as though you’re about to enter a new stage of life—a better, stronger, wiser, and more spiritually centered stage…”

These are just a minutia of the WEALTH of helpful information you’ll gain from reading this book.  And, if you haven’t read , Get Wise, also by Bob, here’s the review link.

‘Til next time!

 

 

 

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Get a Front Row Seat to Surviving a Storm with Rick and Karen Santorum

Friends!  I recently caught a fascinating interview with Senator Rick Santorum on the Eric Metaxas Show.

I’ve always respected Rick immensely and didn’t realize he’s currently a Senior Political Commentator on  CNN.  He’s on Anderson Cooper and on Chris Cuomo and one of the morning shows each week!  (Which rock have I been under?)

The other wonderful discovery from Eric Metaxas’ show was learning about a book Rick and his wife, Karen, wrote called Bella’s Gift:  How One Little Girl Transformed Our Family and Inspired a Nation. (Their daughter, Elizabeth, helped them write the book.)

As with many of Eric’s guests who write books, upon hearing the interview, I immediately ordered the book.  Reading the book is like you’re sitting down with Rick and Karen (each of them have written several chapters) while they walk us through a whale of a storm they experienced and continue to live with each day.

Parents to eight children, one of which died soon after he was born (Gabriel—his death was their first storm they encountered prior to the current one they’re enduring. Karen wrote a book about Gabriel and their experience:  Letters to Gabriel), we see how their last child, Bella, impacts the entire family which is hugely miraculous.

Bella was born with Trisomy 18.  Most babies born with this condition don’t survive more than a few days. You’ll be astonished at some of the doctors Bella had who never called her by name, wrote her off as untreatable, considered her not worth their time, while calling her “incompatible with life.”

The first few days of Bella’s life were frightening to say the least, charting unknown territory.  Karen says, “A strong prayer chain strengthened and sustained us. Our families and friends were the hands of Christ during her hospitalization.”  And you can see how they remain strong week in and week out throughout the book.

The Mama Bear in me surfaced quickly and Karen, more than once, called this instinct we moms have her “inner Grizzly Bear.”  Happy with relief over finally finding docs who were on board, compassionate, and who gave Bella wonderful care, Rick and Karen brought Bella home where she’s blossomed, has six siblings who adore her and I’m happy to report is now eleven years old!

Frightening trips to the hospital keep the Santorum family on their toes, along with multi-faceted daily care for Bella.  How did they survive the early years and how do they keep putting one foot forward every day? And how in the world did Rick run for President during all of this?  (You must read the book to find out!)

You will be inspired by bold faith, gut-level honesty, and pearls of wisdom both Rick and Karen generously share.  Additionally, you may wonder (and marvel) at how they held their marriage together.  Plus you will never look at a special-needs child the same again, that I can promise.  The Santorum’s teach us, “We see that value is not determined by what society calls ‘usefulness,’ but, rather, value is measured by our capacity to love.”

While each of the eighteen chapters has the word “love” in its title, each offers a glimpse at the many ways love affects us and how we can learn to emulate this beautiful kind of God-given love toward one another.

My two favorite chapters are Chapter 13:  Love Unifies (by Karen) and Chapter 14: Love Encourages Selflessness (by Rick).

In Chapter 13, Karen reveals advice she gives newlyweds based on her own marriage and experiences.  She says, “It’s good to understand that marriage is never 50-50. Sometimes, whether it’s emotional, physical, or spiritual, one of you will need the encouragement and strength of the other. You will give 90 %. …Believe and love each other through the imbalances. …because there’s no room for selfishness in marriage.”

She quotes Ephesians 4:26 as their go-to verse:  “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Karen says when they do have a conflict, Rick always says, “I’m not going anywhere, so let’s just work it out.” I love that and Karen closes with, “Amen.”

Karen and Rick emphasize the importance of family in every chapter.  Because their children were old enough to take on many chores, etc., they were a huge help to Karen managing the care for Bella.  She grew up in a large family and she says,

The Santorums consider Bella a gift to their family for a lot of reasons, and Karen says, “One of the most important reasons was to revisit and strengthen my understanding of love through the fear of loss…Rick and I both understood that ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.’” (I John 4:18)

Last week I wrote about a book by Lloyd John Ogilvie called Facing the Future without FearPrescriptions for Courageous Living in the New Millennium.  Lloyd was the Chaplain to the Senate during the time Rick was a Senator.  In Rick and Karen’s book, Rick credits Lloyd, along with a priest, for transforming his faith. You will see in each chapter how strong their faith is which helps them navigate this storm they’re enduring.  God’s impeccable timing is nothing short of miraculous.

Karen closes Chapter 13 with, “Our love for each other and for our Lord has unified us through all the ups and downs. The twists and turns of life have brought us even closer together.” This chapter is inspirational and filled with words of wisdom on the loss of a child, on surviving a storm, and on how to preserve your marriage.  As with each of the chapters, it offers multiple Bible verses (she calls them “sacred Scripture”) you’ll want to write in your journal asap.

Regarding their storm, Karen said, “Venturing into uncharted, stormy seas, my vessel was my faith, and it separated me from the sea of madness and sorrow.”

In Chapter 14, Rick speaks about the importance of family and shows us how “Love Encourages Selflessness.”  He says, “Families are the foundation of society, so when families are healthy, so is the country.” We get to learn of Rick’s childhood and how he saw what it meant for family to come first.

Rick addresses selflessness both in families and in marriage. He teaches us the acronym for FAMILY:  “Forget About Me I Love You.”

Rick once had the opportunity to meet Saint Teresa of Calcutta.  She said something he never forgot, “God does not call on you to do great things; He calls on you to do little things with great love.”

Chapter 15, “Love Begets Peace,” opens with a lovely quote from Madeline L’Engle:

I am certain Rick and Karen have been a beautiful visual of the light of Christ to scores of people they’ve encountered. Whether it was in the political arena, or in hospitals or doctors offices where they’ve  been with Bella, their light from our Lord is causing many to want what they have.

It’s no coincidence Karen used to be a neonatal intensive care nurse. More than once, when they had to call 911 for Bella, Rick and the children chime in it was Karen who saved Bella.  Any time Bella gets a simple cold, it usually goes into her chest, causing breathing to be difficult and a downward spiral to her health.

What Karen and Rick have done for Bella, not just for her as their child, but for thousands of children with special-needs, fighting for their rights and the perfect care, is above and beyond, making all of us realize afresh we are all created by the same God who loves each and every one of us, each with our own purpose to glorify God as He would orchestrate. Amen and amen and thank you, Rick and Karen Santorum for this beautiful, eye-opening book.  God Bless you and your family!

‘Til next time!

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A “Fear Not” a Day Keeps the Devil Away

Friends! Remember your parents telling you “an apple a day keeps the doctor away?”  I didn’t fall for that for long. To this day, I have to force myself to sit down and eat an apple. Don’t ask me why…

Fun sidebar:  A more interesting proverb about the apple first appeared in 1866 in Wales,

“Eat an apple on going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”

While most medical experts agree this isn’t true re: docs, some say the act of eating an apple can keep the pharmacist away. Do try this at home…

I have even better medical news (as in “prescriptions” to lower your stress, coupled with giving-peace-of-mind-news), thanks of course, to a book with my name on it. Not literally, but you’ll learn why this book jumped out at me recently…

The book? Facing the Future without Fear:  Prescriptions for Courageous Living in the New Millennium by Lloyd John Ogilvie.

Lloyd was the  61st Chaplain to the U.S. Senate from 1995-2003. Prior to that he pastored First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, California for twenty-three years.  He also authored fifty plus books!

Sadly, Lloyd John Ogilvie died just this month (June of 2019) at 88 years of age. U.S. Senator Mark O.Hatfield said to hear him preach was like experiencing a “living gospel.”

In an interview in 1989, Ogilvie said,

Now, to the book:  First off, and primo to remember, Lloyd teaches us there are 366 “Fear nots” in the Bible.  One for every day, including leap year! Thence the title of this post:  “A ‘fear not’ a day keeps the devil away.”

Each of the book’s twelve chapters are “prescriptions for courageous living.”  If I had to pick a favorite, I’d choose Prescription #9:

 

Lloyd took a survey of the causes of fear and many answered, “imaginary fears.”  He said, “Some went on to explain that many of their worst fears never happened. And yet they continued to be victims of their gloomy imaginations.”

Look at these ever-so-true words from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Some of your hurts you have cured

And the sharpest you still have survived

But what torment of grief you’ve endured

From hurts that never arrived.”

It never occurred to me to confess our fearful imaginations to the Lord and BEGGING (my word choice, lol) Him to make our imagination “a channel of His vision and NOT a breeding place for fear.” Lloyd adds the importance and the dire need of our understanding what the Lord intended for our imaginations to do, that it must frustrate and distort His original purpose when we don’t consider such.  What a way to think!  Lloyd assures us if we do this, “then we can claim His power to live out each day as fearless, imaginative, and healthy Christians.”

Let’s reiterate those three adjectives!  FEARLESS, IMAGINATIVE, and HEALTHY!!!

Lloyd continues to define imagination for us:  It is:

“The God-given ability of the thinking brain to form and hold images of thought.

“The drama department of the mind, giving our ideas form and structure,

“It produces the motion picture version of our thought.”

And, if that’s not mind-blowing enough, we’re reminded of Joel 2:28-29 which says,

Lloyd said, regarding the above verse, “It’s not only the prediction of the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, but it’s also the promise of the renaissance of the imagination.”  Friends, I HAVE NEVER CONSIDERED THIS BEFORE, HAVE YOU?

Frankly it was a relief to discover later in the chapter that Lloyd had never considered this before either until he kept reading Paul’s words regarding “the fullness of God.”

Let’s read Ephesians 3:17-19:

Now, tuck your toes under the table as they’re about to get stepped on:  Lloyd then asked himself this question:  “If I have been created to receive all of the fullness, have I responded with all of my life?”

He had the revelation he’d been using his imagination to promote fear, not faith, so he made a deep commitment to the Lord re: his imagination and prayed for the fullness of His Spirit to fill it, heal it and use it to help him see himself and other people and the church the way the Lord does. This was a huge “aha” for Lloyd and is also, I’m sure, for us readers! WOW.

The end of the chapter includes six points to recap the wealth of information we’re given in Chapter Nine. The sixth point is my favorite because it truly reminds us to bookend our days with prayer:

I must admit I was deeply saddened to learn of Lloyd’s recent death because I wanted to write him and tell him how much this book has meant to me.  Being fearful is one of my many activities du jour which produce ridiculous worry, thence the need to “readjust” my imagination just as Lloyd advises.

I nearly fell out of my chair while reading another faith-equipping book (which I’ll be writing about next!), called Bella’s Gift:  How One Little Girl Transformed Our Family and Inspired a Nation by Rick and Karen Santorum with Elizabeth Santorum.

I’m sure y’all remember Rick and his run for presidency.  He tells us early into the book how Lloyd John Ogilvie transformed his faith, calling Lloyd a “great man of God.”  (This was while Rick got to sit under Lloyd’s preaching and teaching when he was Chaplain to the Senate!)

Finally, another big fan of Lloyd was author and pastor John Ortberg.  When John was a student at Fuller Seminary, he would sneak over to Hollywood Presbyterian (where Lloyd was the pastor) to watch and learn.  John said, “LLoyd John Ogilvie was a kind of statesman in the world of evangelical Christianity whose type is sorely needed and will be badly missed. He deeply valued the life of the mind and was a model scholar-pastor. At the same time, his commitment to a life of prayer and a fresh experience of intimacy with God shone thru’ almost every sermon…How good God was to lend him to us for a while.”

Dash away, dash away all to your nearest bookstore and grab Facing the Future Without Fear:  Prescriptions for Courageous Living in the New Millenium. You will be so blessed!

‘Til next time!

 

 

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When Your Soul is Crazy-Cluttered…(With Help from John Ortberg)

“You’re not listening to me.”

“Yes, I am.”

“No,… you’re not. Your mind’s going in a million directions.”

“Is not.”

“Is too!”

Background concept wordcloud illustration of mental clutter

Such was a recent stand-off between Hubster and me. Guess who was saying what?

As God would orchestrate, I was reading Soul Keeping—Caring for the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg. I was dumbstruck to discover I was in no way, shape, or form, caring for my soul.

DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!

9780310275961r1

Clearly the Lord was trying to get my attention. I can only imagine His frustration at my little auto-pilot self. Gracious.

Praises be sung for the gift of John Ortberg’s book. His close relationship to Dallas Willard blesses us readers with Dallas’ insight too. He builds around this inspirational quote from Dallas:

“Our soul is like a stream of water, which gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other area of our life. When that stream is as it should be, we are constantly refreshed and exuberant in all we do, because our soul itself is then profusely rooted in the vastness of God and His kingdom, including nature; and all else within us is enlivened and directed by that stream. Therefore we are in harmony with God, reality, and the rest of human nature and nature at large.”

Young Children Exploring Nature On Wooded Path

Let’s look at the benefits a healthy soul has:

Strength,

Direction,

Harmony,

Constantly refreshed,

Exuberant (Anybody felt exuberant lately?) and

In harmony with God

Note this happens when we’re profusely rooted in the vastness of God and His Kingdom.

Here’s where we’d best plant our faces in God’s Word every day. Savoring scripture prevents our souls from crazy clutter.

But… (You knew that was coming!), if we allow ourselves to spin multiple plates, our soul will shrivel, becoming choked from clutter, blocking ways for God’s light, hope, and peace to shine thru’ us.

BEIJING, CHINA - JUNE 4: Balancing the spinning plates performed

Good news! John Ortberg serves up seventeen sensational chapters, each one dealing with different ways to nurture our souls, protecting them from our culture’s chaos.

Pictured below with our author, John Ortberg, are two of my very dear friends, Nancy Tinnell on the left and Kelly McDonald on the right.  In 2013, these gals attended the Leadership Institute at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS where John was a presenter.  Nancy is the Women’s Ministry Director and Associate Pastor of Discipleship & Spiritual Formation at Middletown United Methodist Church.   Kelly works at the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and is Engineer Extraordinaire of this blog.

nancy and kelly with ortberg

You can find out more about John on his website, www.johnortberg.com, or from the church where he’s the  pastor, at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church at www.menlo.church

Let’s address THREE temptations to watch for that can cripple our soul:

#1 – HURRY:

Dallas Willard once said,

“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.”

As a new Mom, one thing I vowed I’d never utter to our boys was, “Hurry up!” That lasted until our firstborn was being a slowpoke for preschool, at the ripe age of two. Sigh…

#2 – CLUTTER

This section stopped me cold. Look at the below:

“The CLUTTERED SOUL becomes choked by worries, deceitfulness of wealth, and desire for other things.

The busy soul gets attached to the wrong things, because the soul is sticky.

The VELCRO of the soul is what Jesus calls ‘desire’. It could be desire for money, or it could simply be desire for ‘other things’.

We mistake our clutter for life.”

Oh, friends, if that’s not enough, there are more slap-you-silly sections : The Hardened Soul and the Shallow Soul. Advice? Read ‘em cuz we all need ‘em.

Bottom line: We must quit buying into our culture which applauds busyness. Our culture equates success with production, eighty-plus-hour workweeks, running circles around ourselves, burning the midnight oil for those it-seemed-like-a-good-idea at the time to-do’s.

Scarier…, John adds, “A person preoccupied with externals–success, reputation, ceaseless activity, lifestyle, office gossip—may be dead internally AND NOT EVEN RECOGNIZE IT.” Any alarms going off?

#3 – DISHONESTY:

Another soul disintegrator is dishonesty. Thankfully John’s humor in this section comes as a blessed relief:

Dan Ariely, author of The Honest Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves, admits he’s “astounded by how widespread people’s tendency is to cheat, be self-centered, lie, and be deceitful.”

Honest Truth About Dishonesty

If you’re a grandmother of a college student, listen up:

Research shows “grandmothers are ten times more likely to die before a midterm and nineteen times more likely to die before a final exam.”

“Students who are failing are fifty times more likely to lose Grandma than nonfailing students…..the greatest predictor of mortality among senior citizens in our day ends up being their grandchildren’s GPAs.” (Please join me in laughing out loud. Are you following?)

young pretty female college student sitting in a classroom full

During our youngest son’s freshman year at the University of Kentucky, we experienced this scenario. First, Woody made the grave error of playing intramural football. Early into the season, he broke his collarbone. Badly. Required surgery in Louisville, and lots of time off from school. I prayed he’d pass his first semester.

Right on the heels of his return from surgery, my Mother died. That meant another trip to Louisville and two more absences. One of Woody’s professors found that hard to believe. I had to email her and tell her where to read the obituary in the Lexington Herald Leader.

Needless to say when I read about this research in Ariely’s book, I cracked up. However, cynicism had already slithered into my brain.

Case in point: Our recent bathroom remodeling project underwent multiple, bang-your-head-against-the-wall-delays. Last Monday our plumber couldn’t come because his grandmother died. Immediately I said to myself, “Oh sure, his grandmother died.” I know! Pitiful. Forgive me, Lord.

Good news: Our Good and Gracious God has knitted our souls to seek Him. When we’re sin sick, our souls still crave and need the right relationship with our Savior.  More grace.

Let’s return to God’s Word and claim what the psalmist says in Psalm 84:2

Psalm 84 2

Let’s hear from Isaiah in Isaiah 26:9 –

Isaiah 26 9

Webster tells us, “To yearn is to have an intense longing, or craving, or desire, or appetite, or hunger.” May we truly yearn for the Lord.

Bottom Line:

When facing a decision, ask yourself:

**“Will this situation block my soul’s connection to God?”**

I believe the Holy Spirit will give us the answer.

Cling to this:

Psalm 19 7May we prioritize care for our soul.

’Til next time!

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What Can We Learn From A 92-Year-Old Prayer Warrior?

Friends!  I mustn’t let one more minute fly by without revealing a discovery I predict will change every reader’s prayer life.  It’s a delightful discovery because it’s based on the woman who inspired the character, Miss Clara, in the movie War Room. 

The book?  The Audacious Molly Bruno:  Amazing Stories from the Life of a Powerful Woman of Prayer

Molly Bruno is the incredible prayer warrior we become acquainted with. We get lovely sneak peeks into Molly’s life, thanks to her daughter, Marie Armenia, who authored the book.

The Foreword is by Stephen Kendrick of the Kendrick brothers who co-wrote and produced the movie War Room.  Molly became friends with them and with the cast (including Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore, etc.) She especially became close with Stephen.

She prayed for the movie fervently during production, sadly passing away just as it came out. However, the crew sent her the movie early so she could see how it turned out. She declared she was proud of every single detail.

This inspiring book includes, get ready for this:  EIGHTY, count ‘em 80, Life Lessons from Molly.  Each chapter includes recipes for:

 

PLUS, the end of the book has two appendices:  One of the list of Molly’s Life lessons AND the recipe for Molly’s Meatballs!  What a resource to treasure!

First I’d like to share a couple of endorsements and then I’ll share just a few highlights without giving away too much of the book.  There’s so much you’ll be blown away by, I don’t want to spoil the discoveries for you!

Tim Enloe said, “The secret of Molly’s life was that she was wonderfully, unusually dependent upon Jesus.”

Ralph Duncan said, “Molly Bruno models how an ordinary mother can partner with God in shaping the world!”

Ivey Harrington Beckmann said, “Molly Bruno did not walk on water, but she was the hands and feet of Jesus wherever she went…Marie Armenia has captured the effervescent soul of her mom and given women the lifeline of Molly’s exceptional wisdom so they can navigate the rough seas of life with faith, hope, and laughter.” (Don’t miss that word “lifeline!”)

One of the first things we learn about Molly is revealed to us by her daughter, Marie.  Marie declares her mother was “a nuclear -powered witnessing machine.” We readers get to see Molly in action, first-hand.  Molly and Marie take us by the hand and mentor us along the way.

Marie tells us that prayer for her mom “was like eating candy to her—a sweet JOY to her.”  It was Molly’s way of living.  Her two-word solution was always, “Let’s pray.”  It’s not a coincidence that 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray continually.

Chapter Two contains one of my many favorite Life Lessons, #14:

This lesson came on the heels of 9/11 hitting in New York City, the very week Marie and her husband were moving her parents to Nashville, Tennessee from the Big Apple.  Lo, and behold, with the terrorist attack and all that came with it, there were no moving vans in NYC.

Marie kept trying to relay the severity of the situation to her mother who was not to be dissuaded, praying like she always did.  It wasn’t three more minutes until the phone rang and a man from a moving company posed the most curious question, “Does anyone there need a moving truck?”

No, I’m not kidding, and this kind of scenario is in every single chapter.  You will flip, I promise. (And don’t miss the chapter on dreams.  Uncanny and total proof our Lord is in every detail of our lives.)

And, I love Molly’s Life Lesson #16:  “If prayer is your first response in every situation, it will become your children’s first response in every situation.”  That should make us all parent differently, huh?

Chapter Four is hands down another favorite:  “The Recipe for Reading and Understanding the Bible.” Marie tells us her parents, who were married for seventy-two years, recited Hebrews 4:12 in unison every night before they fell asleep:

Marie reveals her son recorded her parents reciting Scripture together because what could be more beautiful than seeing this sweet couple in their 90’s, reciting Scripture?  Marie said, “It’s like they were memorizing their marching orders from their heavenly Commander in Chief.”

This rolls right into Molly’s Life lesson #27:  “There is no age limit on memorizing Scripture. Do it with your children and your grandchildren. And keep doing it until you see the Lord.”

Here’s where we need to call upon Rob Morgan’s excellent book, 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart for a little help.  Just a thought…

Chapter Seven is killer funny and killer convicting.  The subject? “The Recipe for Being a Wife.”

Here’s THE question:  “Would You Want to Come Home to You?”

Marie tosses us these two verses:  “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife…Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.” Proverbs 21:9,19

Yes, well, we all know the saying, “If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy.”  I remember hearing one of our boys saying, “Steer clear of Mom, she’s in a mood.”  Super proud of that.  Sigh.

Molly taught Marie, “The wife sets the tone for the home.”  And she takes it a step further teaching us to, “overlook what someone else was doing to me in an attempt to see why God was allowing it to happen…Nothing touches me unless God allows it. What is God trying to teach me by allowing this in my life? Is there something He is trying to dig out of my heart?”

Let’s discuss just one more wee, tiny point  and then y’all can dive into the rest of the book…Chapter Eight is the “Recipe for Being a Mom.”

One of my very first Bible studies I attended included the part in Genesis where Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his one and only son, Isaac, who he and Sarah had waited for for years and years, even decades.  (See Genesis 22) I could not grasp how in the world Abraham could have the faith and trust in the Lord to prepare his one and only son to be sacrificed.  (Still have trouble with it, truth be told. Still learning, Lord. Doubting Thomas is the first friend in Heaven I wish to talk to…)

I was struck by what Molly said to her daughter with faith as bold as Abraham:  “Marie , if you wind up in China because that’s God’s will for your life and I never see you again while we both live on this earth, that’s fine. I’d rather never see you again and know you are in the center of God’s will for your life than to have you live right next door to me and be out of the will of God.”

This, my friends, is HUGE.  Can you/could you say such?  I immediately thought of our friends, Nancy and Matthew Sleeth, whose two children and spouses and one granddaughter (and one grandson arriving this month, Lord willing) all live in Africa as missionaries.  I recounted Molly’s words recently to Nancy saying I’d thought of her with her kids clear across the world.  Nancy smiled and said, “Yes, but we will have eternity together.”  Gulp.  I realized at that very second my own petite faith had miles to go to reach that kind of trust.

Oh, now you know what I’m going to say, “Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and snag The Audacious Molly Bruno!”  There’s so much more to becoming acquainted with a quintessential, inspirational 92-year-old prayer warrior. Savor all eighty of her lessons and share them with your family and friends.

‘Til next time!

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons, Scripture